Three years ago I taught the Our Whole Lives curriculum with our high school youth for the first time. OWL is the wholistic sexuality curriculum from the UCC and Unitarian traditions. It's one of the most fun times I've had with teens in our congregation. I was looking forward to having that experience again this year, but COVID got in the way of those plans. However, it's had thinking about teens and sexuality and I thought I'd share some resources for folks with teens or teens-to-be. It's never to early to start conversations about sexuality, bodies and relationships.
In my family we've always been pretty open about talking about sex and bodies with our kids. Sure it leads to slightly embarrassing moments when kids ask openly about body parts or share facts they know about genitals at the wrong time or with the wrong people. But for the most part, the more knowledge, vocabulary and self-awareness a child has the greater their safety and confidence in navigating relationships of all kinds and their ability to protect themself.
Communicating the right names for body parts helps children explain accurately when they've been hurt or are in pain. Communicating without shame or secrecy about body parts can protect children from predators. Communicating the facts about sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy, and the importance of how to have safer sex helps teens make informed decisions about their own bodies and well-being. Communicating to kids and teens the importance of consent and what it is and isn't, as well as the value and beauty of their bodies, creations of a loving God, we hope will help them see themselves as worthy of care and compassion.
You see how often I used the word 'communicating?' That really indicates how key communication is - in an ongoing way, no just as "the talk." So here are some resources. I tried to include a variety of resources that cover littles and middles and also stuff for teens and parents of teens.
The Birds and the Bees for Little Kids - This one is TOMORROW! so act fast if you're interested. There are also many other resources about talking to kids and teens about sexuality at the Birds and Bees and Kids website. Another very cool site with tips and videos and fun animations to help parents process how to talk about sex with kids is Amaze (older kids) and Amaze Junior (little kids)
NPR's Life Kit podcast has a couple of episodes about kids and sex. How to Talk to Children about Sex addresses conversations with kids before the onset of puberty. My biggest take-away (among many) was be brief, factual and loving when talking about sex with kids. What Your Teen Wishes You Knew About Sex Education is (as the title suggests) about the teens in your life. That one features sex educator and advocate Heather Corinna.
Corinna is the author of a couple of books. One is a graphic non-novel called Wait, What? features a group of friends talking to each other and the audience about bodies, sex and sexuality. She also wrote S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-To-Know Sexuality Guide to Get You Through Your Teens and Twenties. I haven't read this one yet, but based on the introduction and table of contents alone I'm looking forward to it. (I linked to Amazon so you can look inside, but I got my copy from bookshop.org)
Since you really don't want your tween or teen googling a sex thing they've heard about, I suggest showing them Scarleteen, the website developed by Corinna. It's very teen friendly with tons of articles and FAQ's on a huge variety of topics. Another good one is Sex Etc. I Wanna Know is another that's not quite as visually fun but does have a section specifically for parents. Honestly, as an old person, these websites are helpful just to keep up with what's important to teens and to see what kinds of questions they're asking.
The Great Conversations series of workshops for parents and their tweens about their changing bodies and what to expect from puberty are in person. But they're offered online for now. I found this really helpful a couple of years ago and I look forward to another round with my second kid. There are other great resources on this site as well.
God loves you and your kids and all of the bodies that God made. Whatever these conversations look like for you, may you experience God's presence with you and your children. Good luck!